Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Easy-As-Can-Be Cheese Danish

I have been a baking lunatic lately! First I went on a cupcake craze, then I got sick of making frostings and went through a muffin phase, and now I am graduating to the world of vegan pastries. My friend Jose has developed an obsession with the cheese danishes from Porto's Bakery in Burbank and so I made it my mission to create a comparably tasty vegan version.

Today I used this recipe from the Compassionate Action for Animals website. I didn't want to go to the trouble of making my own pastry dough unless I knew I'd be able to make a decent tasting cheesy filling first. So this recipe was perfect because it just calls for a couple tubes of Pillsbury Crescent Roll dough (which is vegan). This turned out to be a great recipe, although it could have been written a bit better. For starters, the size of the cream cheese tub isn't listed--you need 8 ounces.

Instead of laying one whole tube of crescent roll dough on top of another, I chose to cut each tube of dough into 4 long rectangles. Then after I put the filling on, I simply folded the rectangle in half and pinched the edges together. Make sure you really pinch the perforations together very well because they will definitely split right open during baking.
Next time I won't bother with the teaspoon of vegan sour cream. It is such a minimal amount and it really adds nothing. Unfortunately now I have a giant tub of sour cream which I never liked, even in my omni days. Does anyone have any good recipes that will use up some of it?

The proportions of the ingredients in the icing part of the recipe are totally wonky. I had to add way more soy milk than the tablespoon that is listed. I just kept pouring in more, little by little, until I had the right runny consistency.
In the end, I was extremely pleased with the cheese filling. I think you would be hard pressed to find someone who didn't think it tasted exactly like the real thing. When I make these again, I will definitely be making my own pastry dough. The Pillsbury stuff tastes fine but it tastes like crescent rolls and not like the delicious puff pastry that makes danishes so damn good! So will these suckers be able to compete with Porto's? I think they are definitely going to give them a run for their money--I'll let you know what Jose's verdict is.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Obama Berry Coconut Crisp

I spent election day being a jittery mess. I was so anxious all day long--I couldn't sit still and I just wanted to roll around in the streets screaming praise for Barack Obama, in case I might inspire some otherwise Republicans to switch their votes at the last second. Instead I sat at my computer, constantly refreshing CNN.com in the hopes that maybe some state decided to start counting their votes early. But of course, that didn't happen so I just kept seeing the two candidates with zero electoral votes. It became clear that I needed a project to keep me busy. So naturally, I started making a Barack Obama outfit for my lovely daughter/dog.

Hayley was the life of the party as we walked to the nearby fire station to cast my vote. (Sadly. pups are not allowed to vote yet in the state of California, so the pup came just to keep me company. Let's hope there is a prop on the next election granting pups the right to vote!!!) The strong support for Obama was clear on our short walk, but we are in Los Angeles after all. I was still really worried about how the rest of the country would be voting.

When we got home, my nervous energy had only increased. So it was time to get elbow deep in baking. I wanted to do a red-white-and-blue themed dish for our election night festivities to be hosted by Kirby Von Scrumptious. I found some blueberries and strawberries still frozen from the summer and decided to make Veganomicon's Berry Coconut Crisp.
This dish was incredibly easy to make--just throw a few ingredients in a pan and cover with this delicious mix of unsweetened coconut, sugar, and flour and bake for about 40 minutes. In the end, the colors ended up being purple and off-white, buttttttt whatever. My only disappointment was that the flavor of the blueberries was so strong, it really covered how amazing the coconut crisp was. The raw dough was so good I'm planning on experimenting to make a coconut sugar cookie based off of this recipe. In the meantime, this is a great dessert that will get gobbled up quickly.

In the end my anxiety subsided as we watched Barack Obama elected the new president. What a happy, proud moment. Viva Los Estados Unidos!!!!!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Hugo's Tacos: One Reason to Not Hate the Valley

I recently got some terrible news: A really good friend was moving...to...THE VALLEY. (Insert scary horror movie music here). Now, I'm not some snob that refuses to go to the valley ever or give it its props for certain things. It's just that I have the unique pleasure of having all of my close friends live within walking distance of me, so actually getting in my car and getting on the *gasp!* freeway to get somewhere seems like a big pain in the ass. And it's no exaggeration that it's often 10 degrees hotter in the valley than in the rest of L.A., and in the summer that is no picnic.

Upon my first visit to the new pad, however, I changed my tune. Pulling off the 101 onto Coldwater Canyon, there on the corner was Hugo's Tacos and then I crossed the street and saw Hugo's restaurant and I was reminded that the valley is full of amazing veg-friendly restaurants that I rarely get the chance to go to! Looks like there will be lots of new culinary adventures in my future!

When I first moved to L.A. and lived in West Hollywood, I would go to the Hugo's restaurant on Santa Monica quite a bit. I could not get enough of their veggie-packed sweet potato bowl and other vegan goodies. So I was so incredibly pumped to see that my friend lives mere blocks from Hugo's Studio City locations. Hugo's Tacos is the restaurant's sister stand with a choose-your-own-adventure style menu: you choose the type of meal you want (ranging from tacos to salsa burgers), and then the filling and sauce you want to go with it.

On my first visit I ordered a bowl with the soyrizo, potato, and zuchinni filling, and the honey chipotle salsa (yes, I am a honey-eating vegan). The bowl comes with organic Spanish rice, organic white beans, onion, cilantro, lettuce, guacamole, and cotija cheese (which Hugo's happily offers to sub out with soy cheese). Stir all these lovely ingredients together into a gooey mess and you get one big bowl of delicious!
On my many subsequent visits (eek! How am I supposed to avoid going there when it's right there by the freeway entrance just begging me to turn in???) I have been unable to force myself to order anything different because I just love the bowl so much. I now ask for no cheese--the soy mozzarella has absolutely no flavor and I don't see the point in adding extra calories onto this already heavy dish. Although I do love the pain of being so full you want to die after eating the whole thing. I also LOVE the honey chipotle salsa. It is a perfect combo of spicy and sweet and is the element that pushes this dish into the realm of the super tasty.
Hugo's food is enough to bring me there time after time, but their daily rotation of agua frescas will keep me a fan for life. Their watermelon agua fresca, which is my drink of choice--I would mainline the stuff if I could--is sublime. If their horchata--an excellent balance of cinnamon, sweetness, and rice milk--is any indication of how good their (completely vegan) rice pudding is, I will definitely be hitting up some of that next time so I can have a sugar high on top of my food coma.
Between the icy agua fresca and the misters that are constantly on (and are pictured at top with some awesome skeleton garland), the valley heat doesn't even interfere with the meal. Recently as I was chowing down and being thankful that there isn't a Hugo's closer to my house because I would surely gain a dubrillion pounds, I saw a sign advertising a new location right over the bridge from me in Atwater Village! Le sigh, guess I'll just have to put in a few more hours at the gym every week...

4749 Coldwater Canyon
Studio City, CA 91607